Huffington Post just put up my latest post and so far there has been very little reaction. I think I know why.  It was written by my head. The others just poured out of me.  This one was very much about explaining, trying to recapture the initial impulse of an earlier post.  And then this morning I read this quote, from 2009, that I had posted, and it was a good reminder:

“My teacher Trungpa Rinpoche encouraged us to lead our lives as an experiment, a suggestion that has been very important to me. When we approach life as an experiment we are willing to approach it this way and that way because, either way, we have nothing to lose.

This immense flexibility is something I learned from watching Trungpa Rinpoche. His enthusiasm enabled him to accomplish an amazing amount in his life. When some things didn’t work out, Rinpoche’s attitude was ‘no big deal.’ If it’s time for something to flourish, it will; if it’s not time, it won’t.

The trick is not getting caught in hope and fear. We can put our whole heart into whatever we do; but if we freeze our attitude for or against, we’re setting ourselves up for stress. Instead, we could just go forward with curiosity, wondering where this experiment will lead.”


Here is the post:

Fire Away:  A Husband, A House, A Mortgage, the Sequel

A month ago I wrote a post called “A Husband, A House, A Mortgage, A Baby and A Lightbulb Moment” in which I talked about having had what I thought was the “American Dream” and how in the end, it didn’t feel like the “prize” I had imagined it would be.

My marriage ended in divorce. We sold our home. My ex and I are not only not in love, we don’t even communicate. Everything I had dreamt of having essentially imploded, leaving me to question most of the values I had held dear in the first half of my life.

I received over 1,000 comments and attacks on this blog and after awhile, I had to stop reading them. The blog was not meant to say my ex husband was to blame any more than I was. It was not meant to say that marriage, a home and a family are not worthy desires. It was simply to say that for so many of us, life is not one size fits all. We all have different paths. What works so well for so many families does not work for everyone. And that is not the end of the world — it is simply the beginning of a new world.

Recently I was in a workshop with several men who talked about their families, their wives and their children. They were so proud and devoted to them, and I felt a pang of envy. To anyone who thought that I was saying that I don’t believe in love — or that I was critical of men — I apologize. If I didn’t believe in love, I wouldn’t want to live. Love is, for me, the single most important part of my life. I am surrounded by love and though I do not, at this time, have a partner or a spouse in my life, that doesn’t mean that there is no love.

I love my daughter, deeply. I love my dog, Lucy, who has been with me for over 12 years. We rescued her when she was 4 and even at 16, she’s hanging in there. I lost a beloved dog, Lola, a year and a half ago when she was only 9. It still kills me to think of her. I love my friends and my family. I love writing. I love babies. I love New York City. I love this entire country and I also love many other countries. I love ice cream. I love people who can put their beliefs front and center and make a real difference in this world. I love spiritual teachers like Pema Chodron — she saved my life when everything felt like it was going wrong. I love meditation. (I even feel not completely stupid when I chant now.)

I actually love my ex husband. I just don’t want to live with him. And it’s pretty clear that he is relieved not to be living with me.

When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I believe that walking down the aisle was the equivalent of my “Rocky” moment, climbing up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in my wedding gown and raising my hands in triumph. I believed that my life was now complete.

And then I saw how challenging it was to keep a marriage going when two people wanted different things out of it. I wanted simply to have a partner and an ally, to know someone had my back and wanted to spend some time with me. He wanted to come together when he wanted to, and that turned out to be, in the end, not at all.

I was not right and he was not wrong. It simply was what it was.

In losing that “Rocky” triumph, I found myself. I found that all the external things I thought I wanted were less important than the internal work I had to do. I found a core of strength I didn’t know I had, to help my parents die, to be a good friend to others. To try to know God, or whatever that “higher consciousness” is.

I do believe in love. I do believe in marriage and kids and a home and all of those desires of human connection. I just believe that our lives can be complete and joyous without all the external prizes we think we must have.

Despite a difficult divorce and some very painful losses, the past three years have been some of the best years of my life. Were they better than the early years of my daughter’s life, when we were a loving family and we were all together? They were different; not better, not worse.

It’s an amazing feeling to fall in love and plan a wedding and embark on a life with the person you believe is your soul mate. But sometimes the person we chose at 24 or 29 or 37 is not the person we can live with at 40 or 50 or 60. Should we be miserable for the rest of our lives because it didn’t last? Or should we move on and accept that life has other plans for us?

A year ago, I started studying swing dancing because I hoped that dancing would lift my spirits after a horrible divorce. It did. Recently, one of my favorite dance partners told me that I had to go into more challenging classes in order to improve. I think that’s true now about love, too. I think it’s time to come out of hiding and put my heart on the line again. I’m scared to step on my partner’s feet in an advanced intermediate dance class. And I’m also scared to get my heart broken again. But I know that if I don’t take chances in life, I might as well just die right now and forget about the remaining days, months or years. Where would be the joy in that?

After that blog post got so many critical comments, I talked to a few successful writers I know about how they handled criticism and personal attacks. One of them, Michael Eigen, a therapist and author of at least twenty books, said to me, “If you go out into the world, you will be attacked by others. If you stay in your cave, you will be attacked by yourself.”

I’m ready. I feel that Pat Benatar has taken over my soul and is singing, “‘C’mon and hit me with your best shot… fire away.”

Which is also a good song to dance to.

I have been reading a new book called “Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr and essentially it’s about, as the book jacket describes:

“In the first half of life, we are naturally and rightly preoccupied with establishing our identity — climbing, achieving, and performing. But those concerns will not serve us as we grow older and begin to embark on a further journey. One that involves challenges, mistakes, loss of control, broader horizons, and necessary suffering that actually shocks us out of our prior comfort zone. Eventually, we need to see ourselves in a different and more life-giving way. This message of “falling down” — that is in fact moving upward — is the most resisted and counterintuitive of messages in the world’s religions, including and most especially Christianity.”

If I’ve experienced anything in the past three years, it has been this. Reading the book affirms so much of what I’ve been learning. And though it may sound bad in some ways, actually it is good! It actually is great. The years of pain and sadness have given way to wanting to share in the deeper truths that I have been learning. This morning, in a chapter called “A Bright Sadness” from the book, I read this:

At this stage, I no longer have to prove that I or my group is the best, that my ethnicity is superior, that my religion is the only one God loves, or that my role and place in society deserve superior treatment. I am not preoccupied with collecting more goods and services, quite simply, my desire and effort — every day — is to pay back, to give back to the world a bit of what I have received. I now realize that I have been gratuitously given to — from the universe, from society, and from God. I try now, as Elizabeth Seton said, ‘to live simply so that others can simply live.'”

This is a big shift in my consciousness because for so many years I craved “specialness” and recognition. And I wanted stuff. I bought “stuff” and though it brought me very little satisfaction or joy, I still wanted it. (This is not to say that I would turn down any presents that anyone wants to give me. Ever.) But “stuff” isn’t a priority. I love being curious about life now. I love the life I’m living and much of the thanks go to all the spiritual teachers I’ve encountered along the way. It started with Mike Eigen (a therapist who writes a lot about spirituality) and continued with Pema Chodron, who I believe saved my life, and Eckhart Tolle, and Regena Thomashauer, and Friends In Deed, and then my dance teachers and too many others to name. I’m not quite sure where it’s all leading, but it definitely feels like a move upward – and outward. It feels that it is about paying back and giving to the world a bit of what I’ve received.

One of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn, struggle with, accept – was something my therapist, Michael Eigen, always tried to teach me.  I couldn’t get it for years.  Then Buddhism and 12 Step rooms re-enforced the concept and now I still struggle with it, but I’m getting better at it.  The lesson is to not fight whatever feelings are in me – to accept them – to welcome them.  The more you fight them, the more they linger.
It is like drowning.  When you fight the waves, when you struggle and exhaust yourself, you drown.  When you relax into the water, when you find the moments you can breathe and trust that you will not drown, then you live.  That was my experience in a rip tide when I was in my early 20’s.  I was in Malibu, swimming on a beach with no lifeguards.  I went out into the waves, confident, having grown up on Long Island beaches, and I experienced, for the first time, what a rip tide is.  At first I was tossed around underwater and I was terrified.  My first thought was “this is it. You are going to drown.”  And my second thought was, “Do not panic.  That is how people drown.”  Since there was no one there who could save me, I had to do it on my own, I somehow managed to stay calm and not exhaust myself, and I lived.  It was a lesson in trusting myself and that inner voice that knows the truth.  I wish that I had remembered it all these years – it’s a good way to live.  Quietly, listening to that voice. 
Not the other voices, that are louder, and more critical.  You’re doing it wrong, you’re a fuck-up, you’re going to make a mistake, you’re not good enough.
No.  Just calm down and trust.  That will be my mantra for today.  Let’s see how it goes. 

It wasn’t exactly fun. It was rather difficult and as a friend of mine said yesterday, who has been through similiar rough times: “There’s no way to get through it except to go through it.”

Saturday night was the worst. I finally emailed my brilliant therapist, Michael Eigen and he wrote me this:

“You are feeling what you need to feel.

Nothing lasts forever.

Meanwhile, you are being asked to continue growing, perhaps in ways you can’t fathom or imagine.

You are not done meeting yourself or meeting others.

Now, one small step after another, or for a time, no step at all.”

That helped. Also, he encouraged me to feel my anger. That it was entirely appropriate. I think that when I feel very sad, it’s often repressed anger.

And then on Sunday, after running into a friend at Unity, I decided to go to the Mama Gena graduation for the latest mastery class. It was just what I needed. It lifted me up, reminded me to look for my pleasure every day, to know that I am not alone, that I am part of an amazing sisterhood of women everywhere, and to dance.

And my thoughts are with the citizens of Iran, who are going through such a difficult period in their history. And Iraq, and everywhere, there is so much suffering.